Thursday, August 25, 2005

Chinese singers, Japanese singers, English

I listen to a good bit of Chinese and Japanese pop. One thing I've noticed is that both are, on occasion, wont to sing in English. As far as I've noticed, Chinese singers are much better at singing in English than Japanese singers. If I were a singer, I would think that singing poorly in a foreign language would be embarassing.

Chinese singers, the ones I've heard, aren't the best English singers, but they're actually very passable. Sometimes it's Chinglish (a mixture of Chinese and English), and sometimes it's a complete song in English. Far from having accent problems, I think they just wouldn't be my first choice for singing an English song.

Japanese singers, on the other hand, sing an English word poorly and with pride. These songs are mostly Japlish. Actually, they'd mostly be Japanese with a word of English tossed in here and there. One hilarious offender is a song from an anime called Hokuto no Ken, You wa Shock.

Come to think of it, I seem to recall reading something about how European singers are taught to sing with an American accent. From the few Korean songs I've listened to, their English seems fine. I even recall reading how some Koreans undergo surgery for their tongue to overcome physical limitations in their pronunciation. The one Vietnamese singer I listen to also has great English pronunciation. Spanish singers sing English songs all the time, and songs like "She Bangs" aside, they sound fine.

So what's up with the Japanese?

7 comments:

waayers said...

Have you heard of Wing? She's like this Chinese lady who sings songs in English and it is absolutely hysterical. South Park did a whole episode about her. I'll have to find a website for you...

Gabe said...

Haha, yeah, I saw that episode... Damn I forgot about that one guy that went on American Idol, Will Hung or whatever his name was.

Oh well, there goes that theory.

waayers said...

Here's the website of the amazing Wing: http://www.wingtunes.com/public/default.aspx. Listen to "Dancing Queen." It's breathtaking.

And the guy you're thinking of is William "She Bangs" Hung.

Richard said...

Is it really signing with an "American" accent? For that matter, aside for regional twangs and variations, is American an accent at all? Case in point, listen to Swedish, British, French, Spanish, Columbian, etc. singers sing songs in English. They sound "american." Would that lead one to be believe that the singings is actual the lack of an accent at all? I can understand the problems a number of asian singers would have because of the different complexities that make up the root for language pronunciation. It's much more difficult for a Georgia boy like me to pronouce things in Chinese than in French or other western languages and vice versa. I'm not a linguist but I think this has a lot to do with the root families languages develop from.

Gabe said...

By "American accent", I mean, and I think it's generally accepted, if not officially accepted, Midwestern. I think that's the standard American accent.

I'm not sure what you mean by "believe that the singings is actual the lack of an accent at all". I don't think all English singing has or should have a "lack" of an accent. Just me in particular, I don't like Asian accents. I like a lot of the European ones.

Hrm, I'm gonna do a little research on learning to sing in an American accent. I can't remember where I heard about that...

Gabe said...

Reading a bit, and from personal experience, some singers with accents sing with those accents, and some don't, e.g., Garbage and the Beatles, respectively. But there are, apparently a lot of native English language singers that retain their accents when singing: Oasis, the Proclaimers, Country-Western, some Irish folk, et al.

One person I read said that singing and speaking use different parts of the brain, which is why, the person said, when people have strokes that affect their speech center, they are taught to speak in a sing-song manner.

The ability of a person to pronounce certain words may have to do with their familiarity with the root languages, but I think it's a secondary consideration. For instance, I mentioned Koreans who were getting surgery on their tongue to aid in their pronunciation of English words. If I were to guess, I think it'd have more to do with familiarity with the sounds of a language or region (being to parse and distinguish sounds) and the ability for their tongue and mouth to make the proper shape for respective sounds. Case in point, people who are born deaf but not mute.

Unless by "root" you mean something like basic phonetic components, like katakana or pinying or syllables, or some such.

Richard said...

I was referring to the basic phonetic components that make up certain language families. Some are very serious, like your Korean example. Others are more humorous. Try getting a French person to say "H"ello. :)